Learn English – the correct usage of ‘worse’ and ‘worst’


I've noticed a lot of people who, according to the way I was taught, misuse the words 'worse' and 'worst'. The way I understand it, 'worse' is for comparisons, and 'worst' is the superlative. But more and more I see people using them in the exact opposite positions.

That's the worse thing I've ever seen.

This can't get any worst.

This specific thing seems to occur a lot more than any mistakes, so I'm wondering what's up with this.

Best Answer

You are right — they are definitely misusing worse and worst in those examples.

However, I think the impression that this error is catching on may be an illusion — the usage isn't really changing, it's just such a jarring mistake that when you meet it, it really stands out. Googling the phrases you mention, compared with their correct versions, gives:

"That's the worst thing I've ever seen."   51,200 hits
"That's the worse thing I've ever seen."      598 hits

"This can't get any worse"              1,320,000 hits
"This can't get any worst"                  9,580 hits

Google hits are an awfully rough measure, but these differences — factors of around a hundred in each case — show pretty conclusively that this isn't a common usage. If anything, for words that are so close together in both pronunciation and spelling, I'm surprised there aren't more people making this mistake as a typo or thinko.